Limerick 1-28; Tipperary 0-25
This was almost championship fare in terms of intensity as Tipp played like men possessed for the entire first half before having to endure another haunting case of deja vu as Limerick upped their game on the changeover to put them to the stake at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night.
By game’s end the winners had 12 different scorers spread across the pitch while Tipp had only six different marksmen. Such facts makes it almost impossible to shut down the current No 1 best team in the modern game who are seeking to become the best of all time with league, provincial and Liam MacCarthy wins on manager John Kiely’s agenda again this year.
And yet at half-time when Tipp led by four points and had Limerick sucking for oxygen at that stage, you could have been forgiven for thinking that maybe Liam Cahill and his backroom team had finally worked out how to put the Shannonsiders on the back foot.
They hounded their puck outs and when their own goalkeeper Barry Hogan went long, those balls invariably caused the Limerick rearguard all sorts of problems. On the changeover, the complexion changed as Limerick became the hunters and in a 10-point turnaround you could see that their system was superior to anything else out there. Truth be told, they could have double their six-point winning margin if the occasion demanded it.
And when you consider that influential players like Gearoid Hegarty and Kyle Hayes didn’t start and Aaron Gillane and Cian Lynch are still working their way back after long lay-offs, well you see the mountain other teams have to climb to be competitive, never mind come out on top against the Treaty side.
Peter Casey’s goal 14 minutes from time was the score that finally killed off the Tipp ambition to go down to the wire and Limerick will fancy their chances to win the league again against a Kilkenny side that wasn’t really tested by Cork in the other semi-final on Sunday.
Perhaps it was asking too much of the winner to hit the ground running when they were without seven of their starting lineup from last year’s All Ireland final, yet it must be said that many of the replacements, such as Cathal O’Neill and Barry Murphy, showed up well in play and on the scoreboard in that first half.
Tipp had been the goal kings of the league to date but on this occasion daylight looked like it had a better chance to break through the defense than the Premier forward line. Instead they had to rely on Jason Forde frees and a hugely impressive scoring half from Alan Tynan to reward their superior outfield play.
Once Limerick emerged for the second half, they were a different team and Tipperary knew it once Cian Lynch finished off a great team move with a great score. Tom Morrissey cut loose with another and despite Forde’s resistance, the inevitable began to unfold as the power players from all over the pitch landed great scores. Indeed the quip that Tipp held two of Limerick’s back scoreless underlines how potent every member of the outfield is capable of getting on the scoresheet.
Player of the year Diarmaid Byrnes leveled the sides for the sixth time as Gillane started to find his range from play. The third quarter, traditionally Limerick’s best time segment saw them land 10 points as Casey’s goal arrived a few minutes before the hour with a great catch and dispatch with a foot kick to the net.
So don’t bet against Limerick this year and it will be a surprise if Kilkenny can keep a loss down to single figures on Sunday week.
Limerick: N Quaid; S Finn, M Casey, B Nash (0-1); D Byrnes (0-6 0-5f), D Hannon (0-2), C Coughlan (0-1); B Murphy (0-2), W O'Donoghue (0-1); C O’Neill (0-2), C Lynch (0-2), T Morrissey (0-2); A Gillane (0-7, 0-6f), P Casey (1-1), D Ó Dálaigh (0-1) Subs: G Hegarty for O’Neill (60 minutes), C Boylan for Morrissey (62 minutes), R English for Finn (65 minutes), S Flanagan for Gillane (71 minutes), M Houlihan for O’Donoghue (73 minutes).
Tipperary: B Hogan; E Connolly; M Breen, J Ryan; D McCormack, B O’Shea, R Maher; C Stakelum; A Tynan (0-4); S Kennedy (0-2), N McGrath (0-1), G O’Connor (0-3); J Forde (0-14, 0-11f), P Maher, J Morris (0-1) Subs: E Heffernan for Stakelum, M Kehoe for P Maher (both 51 minutes); J McGrath for Morris, C Bowe for Kennedy (65 minutes)
Ref: L Gordon (Galway).
Kilkenny 2-22; Cork 0-22
There are few more honest teams in this modern hurling era than Kilkenny - and when they put it up to previous impressive Cork at Nowlan Park on Sunday, they found an opponent so brittle that they barely broke sweat in putting them to the sword to reach the league final.
What a disappointment for manager Pat Ryan to get this sort of limp response from a side who promised a lot more than they have delivered in recent times. Cork arrived at the venue unbeaten in the league and with a new goal scoring threat in their team; they left with their tails between their legs having offered little or nothing by way of progress to show their fans.
Once Martin Keoghan drilled home a goal in the first half, the sense was that Kilkenny were going to drive on - which is precisely what they did. Then when the emerging Billy Drennan shot home a penalty as part of his 1-13 total in the second half, it was all over bar the handbag swinging which saw one player, Cork’s Eoin Downey, see red and four see yellow from referee John Keenan.
Watching the previous semi-final, the difference in intensity was remarkable as Cork seldom if ever put pressure on the Cats player in possession. We will know a lot more about the new Kilkenny under Derek Lyng when they face Limerick in the final on Sunday week.
The majority of the 7,000 crowd will be happy that at least the side is up for the battle and won’t bow the knee - whether they will put it up to John Kiely’s men like last year’s All Ireland final is doubtful, though the return of TJ Reid and Eoin Cody could boost their scoring average.
Kilkenny: E. Murphy; M. Butler, T. Walsh, P. Walsh; D. Corcoran, H. Lawlor, D. Blanchfield; C. Fogarty (0-1), A. Murphy (0-2); T. Clifford (0-1), J. Donnelly (0-2), P. Deegan; B. Drennan (1-13, 1-0 pen, 0-8f, 0-4 65s), M. Keoghan (1-0), R. Hogan (0-1) Subs: C. Kenny (0-1) for Hogan 56th min; G. Dunne (0-1) for Clifford 58th min; N. Brennan for A. Murphy 67th min; C. Delaney for D. Corcoran 69th min; E. Cody for Butler 71st min.
Cork: P. Collins; N. O’Leary, E. Downey, D. Cahalane; T. O’Connell, C. Joyce, R. Downey (0-1); B. Roche, E. Twomey; C. Cahalane (0-2), C. Lehane, S. Barrett (0-3); S. Kingston (0-9, 0-8f), P. Power (0-2), J. O’Connor (0-1) Subs: T. O’Mahony (0-1) for Twomey 50th min; P. Horgan (0-3f) for J. O’Connor 50th min; G. Millerick for C. Cahalane 52nd min; B. Hayes for P. Power 66th min.
Ref: J. Keenan (Wicklow).
Galway 1-13; Kerry 0-14
No one remembers league semi-final losses if a team goes on to win Sam Maguire in the same year. Trouble for Kerry is that Jack O’Connor’s history is to win league and championships as a double in his previous three comings as manager - and that can’t happen now following this defeat to Galway at Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
For Galway manager Padraig Joyce this victory felt like a step forward from last year’s All Ireland final defeat to the same opposition and will buoy his charges as they prepare for the league final showdown with neighbors Mayo this Sunday.
As the Tribesmen go for their first league title in 42 years, it is ironic that it was a flukey Paul Conroy goal which was the killer blow to get them to the final stage.
Shane Murphy’s fumble of the speculative lob in the first half gave the home side a 1-7 to 0-7 half-time lead - an advantage they kept on the scoreboard until the very end.
Both teams are trying to find new talent and in Galway’s case the introduction of midfielder John Maher and Peter Cooke has given them an extra dimension which they will need as they strive to head into deep summer in pursuit of Sam.
Kerry have lost David Moran to retirement and the jury is still out on whether Barry Dan O’Sullivan and Jack Barry are good enough as a pair to carry this sector.
Inarguably the most significant sighting for Galway fans was the introduction of Damien Comer for the first time since being injured earlier this year.
The maroon talisman showed he has lost none of his zest for gaining possession and kicked a fine point under pressure to bolster western confidence that they can go one better this year.
Kerry on the other hand are still waiting to kick into full throttle as David Clifford and Seanie O’Shea were nowhere near the players who led the Galway defense on a merry dance in the All Ireland final.
Without these two in particular rediscovering the hunger that drove them last year, O’Connor might find it much harder to add back to back titles.
Across Division One, there was late drama as Monaghan went to Castlebar and beat Mayo by two goals while Tyrone’s two-point win over Armagh condemned the Orchard County to relegation.
Managerless Donegal’s woes continued when they were routed 0-21 to 0-9 by Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park.
Galway: B Power; J McGrath, S Kelly, S Fitzgerald; D McHugh, J Daly (0-1), C Hernon; P Conroy (1-0); J Maher (0-2); M Tierney (0-1), J Heaney; P Cooke; T Culhane (0-1), S Walsh (0-5f), Cl Sweeney (0-1) Subs: J Glynn for Hernon (half-time), D Comer (0-1) for Culhane (42), R Finnerty (0-1) for Maher (54), D O'Flaherty for Heaney (72).
Kerry: S Murphy; D Casey, J Foley, T O’Sullivan (0-2); P Murphy, T Morley, G White (0-1); J Barry, B D O’Sullivan (0-2); R Murphy, S O’Shea (0-5, 0-2f, 0-2 ’45), P Clifford (0-2); T Brosnan, D Clifford (0-2f), D O’Sullivan Subs: D O’Connor for O’Sullivan (blood 31-33, 40), D Moynihan for R Murphy (half-time), K Spillane for D O’Sullivan (46), Gr O’Sullivan for Casey (52), P Geaney for P Murphy (65)
Ref: N Cullen (Fermanagh).